Casey Cochran, Levi Kitchen star in Florida Mini O’s
By Shan Moore | Photography by Rob Koy
A record turnout for the 49th running of the Thor Mini O’s packed the Gatorback Cycle Ranch in Gainesville, Florida, which forced organizers to extend racing an extra day to get all of the motos in. And through it all, a number of champions were crowned, including the top Minicycle and A-class riders. Casey Cochran, of Clermont, Florida, emerged as the top Minicycle rider and Levi Kitchen, of Washougal, Washington, rose to the top of the Pro ranks.
Cochran, a privateer riding GasGas machinery, went home with two of some of the week’s most prestigious awards, the Thor Bronze Boot Award and the Pro Circuit Platinum Pipe Award.
The Thor Bronze Boot Award is given to the rider in the 65cc, 85cc, Mini Sr., Supermini and Schoolboy classes that accumulates the highest number of points in the supercross main and motocross overall combined, and the Pro Circuit Platinum Pipe Award is given to the rider who accumulates the highest number of points in the supercross main and motocross overall combined.
In total, Cochran took six Championships: Supermini 1 (12-15) SX; Supermini 2 (13-16) SX; Mini Sr. 1 (12-14) SX; Mini Sr. 2 (13-15) SX; Mini Sr. 1 (12-14) MX, and Mini Sr. 2 (13-15) MX classes. He was second in the Supermini 1 (12-15) MX and Supermini 2 (13-16) MX.
“It’s awesome to get those awards because of all the people that have gotten them before me, great riders,” said Cochran. “It means a lot to get those special awards that only a few people can say they’ve ever gotten.”
The Dunlop Silver Tire Award, awarded to the rider in the Pro and A classes that accumulates the highest number of points in the supercross main and motocross overall combined, was won by Kitchen. Like Cochran, the Rock River Yamaha rider also won six titles, with Nate Thrasher playing the foil, keeping Kitchen from winning eight titles. Kitchen took supercross titles in 250 A, 450 A, 450 Pro Sport and 250 Pro Sport classes, and motocross titles in the 250 Pro Sport and 450 Pro Sport classes.
The Scott Golden Goggle Award, which goes to the rider in the 250 and 450 B and C classes who accumulates the highest number of points in the supercross main and motocross overall combined, went to Rock River Yamaha’s Gage Linville. Lineville won supercross titles in the 250 B, 450 B Limited, and a motocross title in the 250 B Limited class.
Other special award winners included the Diamond Award, which was won by Jayden Clough; the VP Ironman Award, won by Evan Ferry; the Oakley Over-The-Top Award, given to Henry Karvasaek; the Nihilo Prodigy Award, won by Eiden Steinbrecher; the Mini E Olympiad KTM Stacyc Award, given to Gavin McCoy, and the Renthal Mechanic of the Year Award, handed to Miles Atkinson.
One of the most spectacular races involving Cochran was the Supermini 2 (13-16) supercross race. Cochran consistently ran lap times that were clearly faster than his nearest competitors, as the Florida rider pulled away out front. Meanwhile, as KTM riders Collin Allen and Jude Smerlick were fighting over second, KTM Orange Brigade’s Haiden Deegan had managed to gain ground and now had the two riders in his sights. A lap later, Deegan passed both Allen and Smerlick for second and set his sights on Cochran. With two laps to go, Deegan made a run at Cochran for the lead when Cochran lost his rear brakes.
“When I lost my brakes, I couldn’t push as hard as I wanted to, so Haiden caught me and then he passed me on the last lap,” said Cochran. “We went back and forth for a second and then I went under him in the last corner and won the race.”
The final order at the finish was Cochran, Deegan, Smerlick and Allen.
During the motocross races, Cochran jumped out early in the final in the Mini SR 2 final, leading KTM riders Thomas Wood and Agustin Bareneche into the first lap. Cochran rode a mistake-free race to take the win and the overall. Wood finished second for second overall (2-2) and Bareneche finished third in the final and third overall with a 5-3 score.
Deegan managed to take two races from Cochran, the only rider to do so. In the Supermini 2 (13-16) MX final, Collin Allen jumped out front, with Deegan on his heels. Deegan took the lead on lap two. Once in front, Deegan opened up the lead during the final few laps to take the win over Cochran, who passed Allen with two laps to go.
Deegan also won the Supermini 1 (12-15) MX overall ahead of Cochran with Team Green Kawasaki’s Krystain Janik third.
Kitchen was spectacular in the A and Pro classes. After finishing 11th in the qualifier, Kitchen jumped up to an impressive lead in the 450 Pro Sport SX race and never looked back, as he and fellow Yamaha rider Kaeden Amerine checked out on the rest of the pack after the start of the 12-lap main event.
The big battle in the class was the one for third, with Honda riders Kobe Heffner and Cullin Park, Brandon Scharer and Matt LeBlanc, both on Yamaha’s, battling for the position. Midway into the race, Heffner ran off the course, handing third to Park, with Scharer closing. On lap eight, Scharer moved ahead of Park for third and the die was cast. At the finish, the order was Kitchen, Amerine and Scharer.
In the 250 Pro Sport MX class, Kitchen came into the final race with a win in his heat race, while Rock River Yamaha’s Nate Thrasher came into the final with a third. It was Thrasher, however, with the holeshot to start the 10-lap final moto, with Kitchen and KTM’s Scharer in tow.
Knowing he would still need some help to win the overall even if he finished first in the final moto, Thrasher put his head down and pushed as hard as he could. On the other hand, Kitchen knew a second in the moto was all he needed to with the title, so the Washington native was content to maintain a safe second to Thrasher. Midway into the race, LeBlanc started a run through the pack and on lap five he passed Scharer for third.
With the order set for the moto, Thrasher took the win in race two with Kitchen in second and LeBlanc third, giving Kitchen the overall with a 1-2 moto finish. Thrasher was second overall at 3-1 while LeBlanc was third overall at 3-3.
Luke Kalaitzian grabbed the holeshot at the start of the 450 A final moto and led a talented entry into the opening lap, with Thrasher and LeBlanc running second and third. LeBlanc went down midway into the opening lap, bumping Cullin Park up to third, while up front Thrasher made a move to take the lead away from Kalaitzian.
Park moved to within striking distance of Kalaitzain then made the pass. Meanwhile, Thrasher held a seven-second lead out front.
Counting his heat race win, Thrasher’s moto win was good enough for the overall, with Park getting second overall with a 4-2 performance. Christian Fernandez went 3-3 for third overall.
Thrasher and Kitchen locked horns in the second moto of the 250 A motocross division, with Thrasher taking the early lead ahead of Kitchen with Park in third. Slade Smith was fourth with LeBlanc, hoping to redeem himself from his mishap in the 450 A class, running fifth. Unfortunately for LeBlanc, he went down again on lap three and dropped out of the top 20.
With one lap to go, Kitchen moved to within striking distance on Thrasher, but Thrasher was able to hold on for the moto win and the overall with a 1-1 moto score. Kitchen was second overall with a 1-2, while Park was third overall at 3-3.
Though he didn’t get any wins in supercross, Thrasher won six of his eight motos in motocross.
In the B classes, Rock River Yamaha’s Gage Linville,
Team Green Kawasaki’s Jayden Clough and Monster Energy Star Racing’s Nick Romano dominated. Linville won Supercross titles in the 250 B, 450 B Limited, and a motocross title in the 250 B Limited class. Meanwhile, Romano took titles in the 450 B SX and 250 B MX divisions. Clough claimed titles in 450 B Limited MX and 250 B Limited SX.
In the 450 B Supercross final, Eddie Norred (Kawasaki) grabbed the holeshot, but Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha’s Nick Romano got out front early, with Yamaha’s Benjamin Garib and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Talon Hawkins pushing the two front-runners. Romano turned in a couple of blistering lap times to establish a safe lead and then cruised through the remainder of the race.
With Romano leading by nearly five seconds, Hawkins passed Garib for second place on lap four. One lap later, it was Team Green Kawasaki’s Luca Marsalisi dropping Garib to fourth, as Romano continued to dominate out front.
Romano got a big jump at the start of the Schoolboy 2 (12-17) B/C MX, leading Hawkins and Linville into the opening lap. Both Romano and Linville came into the race with heat race wins, while Hawkins finished fourth in his heat.
By lap four, Romano had pulled out to a safe lead, while Linville started pushing Hawkins for second. A lap later, Linville made a move on Hawkins to take over the runner-up slot. At the finish (and overall) it was Romano, Linville and Hawkins.
Clough grabbed the start to lead the start of the 450 B Limited motocross final, however Linville was quick to make a move and take the lead. Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Brandon Ray turned up the heat and started turning the fastest lap times, which moved him past Clough and to the rear fender of Linville.
Ray tried to force his way past Linville on the inside of a right-hander and the two riders made contact and went down. Linville got up and away first, while Ray struggled to get going, allowing both Clough, Zaremba, Cremaldi and Rorred to go past.
Linville took the win with Clough second. Clough took the overall victory with a 1-2 moto tally, while Linville was second overall with a 3-1. Zaremba was third overall with a 4-3.
Linville and Romano came into the 250 B race with wins in their heat race. Romano grabbed the holeshot with Linville in second after the start. Talon Hawkins made it a fast trio up front.
Romano made a slight mistake on lap two, and Linville moved to the Yamaha rider’s rear tire. Romano was solid, however, and held on for the win and a 1-1 overall championship.
Ray moved up to challenge Hawkins for third, but Hawkins held on to round out the podium with Ray finishing fourth.
En route to the VP Ironman Award, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Evan Ferry took wins in the 125 (12-17) B/C class and Schoolboy 1 (12-17) in Supercross and the 125 (12-17) B/C and Schoolboy 1 (12-17) in motocross. CN